What began as an ambitious idea in a small corner of Nagpur in Maharashtra 97 years ago has now swollen into an ideology that is potentially saving the country’s remotest villages. This ambitious idea from Nagpur is the RSS. Today is the birthday of its founder – Dr. K. B. Hedgewar.
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar is the founding Sarsanghachalak (or “Chief”) of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Also known as doctorji, he founded RSS based on the intent of uniting Hindus and giving them a support system, voice, and a chance to defend themselves against both international and domestic enemies. Today on this birthday, let’s explore a few of his achievements.
Born in Nagpur on 1st April 1889, Dr. Hedgewar was expelled from Neel City High School for singing “Vande Mataram” in violation of the circular issued by the then British colonial government. He shifted to Yavatmal as a result and competed for his education. Later he moved to Kolkata. After passing the L.M.S. examination from the Calcutta Medical College in June 1916, he completed a yearlong apprenticeship and returned to Nagpur in 1917 as a physician. After completing his education, Hedgewar joined the Anushilan Samiti in Bengal, which was influenced deeply by the writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Hedgewar’s initiation into this group, rooted in Hindu symbolism, was an essential step in his path toward creating Sangh.
Dr. Hedgewar participated in the Indian National Congress (I.N.C.) in the 1920s, but he became disillusioned with their policies and politics. He left I.N.C. and started to witness the harsh ground reality.
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar anticipated the need for strengthening the foundations of the Hindu society. He wanted to prepare Hindus for challenges on social, economic, cultural, religious, philosophical and political planes. A galaxy of savants such as Dayananda and Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Tilak, had sown the seeds of the most recent phase of national renaissance. What was needed was a sufficiently strong instrumentality for carrying that process onward. This instrumentality was created and bequeathed to the nation by Dr. Hedgewar in the form of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which he, after years of deliberate and patient preparation, founded at Nagpur on 27th September, Vijayadashami Day of 1925 C.E.
Dr. Hedgewar founded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925 on the day of Vijayadashami, intending to organize the Hindu community for its cultural and spiritual regeneration and make it a tool for achieving complete Independence for a united India. The idea of founding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was conceived when self-oblivion had overtaken society. The struggle for political Independence occupied people’s minds; this was but natural. However, what was askew was the implicit assumption that the advent of freedom would automatically usher in a revival of genuine nationalist values that perforce receded during foreign rule. Looking to the West as the pinnacle of civilization, irrationally perpetuating the Britishers’ self-serving theories of the ‘White Man’s burden’; that the Hindus were ‘a nation-in-the-making’, that the Hindus had accomplished nothing of significance in the past, that Westernisation was the only hope for ‘the dying race’ that were the Hindus; unquestioning acceptance of myths floated by Westerners even in the name of history (e.g., that the Aryans came from outside), that life in Bharat was and had always been at a near primitive state; – acceptance of numerous such myths had virtually become mandatory for anyone with the slightest pretensions to education or intellectuality.
Sangh was founded to fight these myths. Sangh was founded to save Hinduism. British didn’t anticipate Sangh’s Hindu revival. Keeping aflame the spirit of freedom and endeavoring simultaneously to strengthen the nation’s cultural roots marked the twin features of the character of the Sangh from the beginning, and that has to this day remained its central plank. Every passing day has confirmed the validity of this basic philosophy.
Erosion of the nation’s integrity in the name of secularism, economic and moral bankruptcy, incessant conversions from the Hindu fold through money-power, ever-increasing trends of secession, thought patterns and education dissonant with the native character of the people, and State-sponsored vilification of anything that goes by the name of Hindu or Hindutwa: these pervasive tendencies provide ample proof of the soundness of the philosophical foundation of the Sangh as conceived by Dr. Hedgewar and its continued relevance for the survival and health of the Hindu society and of the nation as a whole. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh alone has consistently been sounding the alarm against all these sinful tendencies in the body-politic of Bharat.
Dr. Hedgewar often said, “Even if the British leave, unless the Hindus are organised as a powerful nation, where is the guarantee that we shall be able to protect our freedom?” His words have proved to be prophetic. Conjointly with Independence, parts of Punjab, Bengal, Sindh and the Frontier areas were sundered from Bharat; and, four and a half decades after the nation’s attaining freedom, Kashmir remains a thorn in the flesh.
Sangh’s alone has been the voice of genuine patriotic concern amidst the cacophonous, politically inspired shibboleths of undefined secularism. Even at its inception, the Sangh was viewed by Dr. Hegdewar not as a sectoral activity or movement, but as a dynamic power-house energizing every field of national activity.
Dr. Hedgewar founded RSS as an organization of selfless workers called Swayam Sevaks with an aim to help Hindus Unite.
When the British thought Hinduism was a dying breed and nationalism would die when enough Hindus were converted, it was Dr. Hedgewar and his ideology that stopped the invaders from destroying Hinduism.